My dad, a retired fighter pilot, needed hearing aids for a while before he actually got them. It had reached a tragicomic point: we could no longer tell if he was actually mishearing us, or pretending as to amuse us and—forever to the nth degree—himself. I’d say about two-thirds of the time, he really thought I’d said “orange” instead of “James,” or “winners” instead of (Washington) “Wizards.” Words that almost never mean the same thing.
But, after years of prodding from my mom (I never felt comfortable pushing it on him), he finally caved earlier this week. I walked into the kitchen for some water and he said, with great pride, “I could hear that TV downstairs, you know.” I said I sure hoped he could hear it. I’d been on the treadmill, which means the volume on the TV had been turned all the way up to 100, the highest it goes.
“I could hear it,” he repeated, beaming. He turned and revealed tiny silver hearing aids nestled behind each ear, like a forgetful magician’s quarters. I never would have seen them if he hadn’t gone out of his way to show me.
I said that was great and asked how he liked them, and he said he was still getting used to them. He heard his voice all the time now—every time he spoke, it was like listening to himself on an answering machine. He didn’t hate it, just wasn’t used to it. Maybe after sixty-two years, a person hears himself on tape enough not to recoil. I envied him.
Yesterday he came home and announced he’d scared the hell out of himself at work. He swipes his card every morning, always just watching for the little green light before passing through the turnstile. But apparently a loud BEEP accompanies that little light. He’d never heard it before, and it damn near gave him a heart attack.
This afternoon he and I were leaving the house to take my truck to get its safety and emissions inspections. The weather here in Northern Virginia is Los Angelic—sunny, seventies. My dad stopped me as soon as we stepped outside.
“You hear those birds chirping?” he said. “Man alive.”
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.